Opening address by Guido Westerwelle at the EU / LAC Energy Forum, 29 April 2010

03.05.2010 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --


Ladies and gentlemen,

I bid you a warm welcome to the Federal Foreign Office. I’m delighted that we have the opportunity to speak here today. Allow me above all to thank everyone who has organized this Forum. Let me welcome the Honourable Richard Frederick, Saint Lucia’s Minister for Physical Development and the Environment, Ambassador José Luís Pérez Sánchez-Cerro, representing the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines, and my Cabinet colleague Dirk Niebel, who is the Federal Government Minister responsible for Economic Cooperation and Development.

I would also like to thank the Spanish EU Presidency and the Argentine Presidency of the LAC countries for their support. And I thank all the cooperation partners for making this event possible. I especially welcome the Vice-President of Nicaragua, Jaime Morales Carazo, and the Minister for Electricity and Renewable Energies of Ecuador, Miguel Calahorrano. Thank you all very much for coming to Berlin today.

The EU-LAC Forum which begins today is the fifth such forum the German side has organized with our partners. I’m delighted that the Federal Foreign Office here in Berlin is the host for the first time.

This commitment is also an expression of the change in Germany’s perception of Latin America, which in recent decades has become a central partner region for Germany and Europe.

We look with great interest at the region’s dynamic economic growth. The Latin American economies may be important as markets and as a good investment opportunity, but they are much more than that. As the region’s weight on the world markets increases, so too does its geopolitical importance.

The Federal Government will shortly introduce a cross-cutting policy concept for our cooperation with Latin America. That concept will be based on the recognition that Europe and Latin America are ideal partners for shaping globalization. Our ties are not only political and economic but also have a historical and cultural aspect. Our policy is based on shared values, including democracy and the rule of law, the value of individual freedom, the need for international cooperation and the primacy of international law. This is what binds us together.

We want to further strengthen these ties between Germany and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as making it more visible. This is why Hamburg is bidding to host the EU-LAC Foundation. For centuries now Hamburg has been a centre of maritime trade with Latin America, but at the same time it is a modern city with a bright future. I can’t imagine a better headquarters for this foundation!

Two months ago, during my first “grand tour” as foreign minister, I travelled to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. I found that people there all wanted greater prosperity. I’m confident that growing prosperity in Latin America will reach more and more of the population. This is indispensable for a societal development which seeks to bring humanity, self-determination and freedom to the lives of a growing number of people.

However, increasing prosperity also means greater economic and political challenges. It would be naive to simply ignore the problems growth entails.

This is particularly clear regarding energy supply.

If the growing energy needs were to be covered solely by fossil fuels, this would mean the global oil and gas reserves would be depleted even more quickly. The greenhouse gases emitted when burning these fuels would increase global warming. At the same time it would become more and more attractive to look for oil in places where it had not been economically viable up to now.

While offshore oil drilling will of course be necessary for the foreseeable future, the recent reports from the Gulf of Mexico show the risks involved. The environmental impact of the explosion on the drilling rig “Deepwater Horizon” will probably be felt most keenly on the coast of Louisiana. Yet there is a very real danger that the effects will not be limited to just one country. The oil-slick might be detrimental to the fishing industry, and could even threaten the entire region’s sensitive ecosystems. Particularly Caribbean island states, and particularly the poorest countries, could be hit hardest.

Today you will discuss specific measures to enable our regions of the world to cooperate in resolving the energy issue, one of the 21st century’s existential problems.

The answer cannot be increased amounts of fossil fuels alone. We need an increasing supply of renewable energies – wind power, hydropower, geothermal heat, and solar energy.

Over the past decades we have gone ever further out to sea to drill for oil. Perhaps now we must increasingly do so to install wind parks.

It is not enough to simply change the fuel source, however. We must also change how we use that fuel. We need the energy we use to be more efficient, and we need to save energy wherever possible. If increasing prosperity is not seen separately from ever faster increases in energy consumption, the increase in prosperity will very soon be eaten up by the costs of climate change.

Our cooperation in energy development and technology is flanked by the linking of our international climate policies. In three days’ time a ministerial conference organized jointly by Germany and Mexico, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, will begin in Bonn. Over two days, 50 states will discuss how to get the international climate negotiations going again. Let us work together to ensure that the next World Climate Conference in Cancún, at the end of this year, is a success!

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